(photo credit: )
Tourism officials assured prospective visitors to Eilat that Monday's terror attack did not pose a threat to tourists in the city as they remained confident of boosting traffic to the resort city this year.
"There have been attacks in Taba, Akaba, Istanbul and Tel Aviv and now it happened in Eilat but this wont have an effect on the long term plan for the city," Shabtai Shay, general manager of the Eilat Hotels Association said. "We need to manage it properly and continue to invest in the program we have embarked on."
Shay stressed the same message issued by the Tourism Ministry following the attack that the blast which killed three went off in a residential area, away from the main tourist cluster in the city.
"We have informed all our representatives abroad to relay the message that the attack took place very far from the tourist center and that the situation was under control and secure," Nahum Itzkovich, director-general of the Tourism Ministry said. "There are currently thousands of tourists in Eilat and at this stage we have not had any cancellations of traffic into or out of the city."
The message contrasts reports later in the day that the suicide bomber had intended to carry out the attack in a more crowded area but his plans were thwarted when he was approached by police officers.
One travel operator commented that the message made no real difference as tourists did not necessarily were not assured whether it was in a residential or any other area.
The attack was the first to hit Eilat and comes two months after the city's tourism industry re-launched its annual Eilat Promotion Travel Agents Conference seeking to influence the 221 guests from 21 countries to sell Eilat as an attractive travel destination.
The conference, which had been cancelled the previous three years due to the security situation in the rest of the country, set a goal to bring 1 million tourists to Eilat in the winter of 2007-08, which would mark an increase of 50 percent over this year.
One attendee at the conference, Rafi Caplin, managing director of UK-based Longwood Holidays said he did not believe the attack would have a long term effect on tourism to the city adding that traffic there was mainly coming from the Jewish community while non-Jewish traffic was near non existent with or without the attack.
While there were no major cancellations on visits to the city on Monday, there was also a significant drop in new interest to travel to Eilat as the phones went quiet at local tour operators following the blast.
"Until today we had a very good month so there was an effect in that we had very few phone calls today," said Zvika Karpel, general manager of travel website Gulliver adding that the lull would last for just a few days and then start to pick up again.
"January and February are busy months for Eilat and the Dead Sea and the signs are good that Pessah will also be strong this year. I don't think the effect will last beyond a few days."